Macra has proposed a “six-pack of priorities” to reduce the impact of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU on young farmers and young people living in Rural Ireland.
At a meeting of the Seanad special select committee on Brexit, Macra national president James Healy outlined the organisation’s plan of solutions including:
Maintaining the strongest possible trading relationships with the UK, post-Brexit.
Securing as favourable UK market access as possible and sufficient resources to identify new markets for Irish agri-business products.
An all-island approach to animal health and environment; access to the European Globalisation Fund for upskilling.
Increasing spaces in Irish third-level facilities to compensate for an expected increase in places due to a reduction in access to UK universities.
Maintaining the CAP budget at European level.
“Maintaining the UK inside the customs union post-Brexit should be a red-line issue for the Irish Government,” said Mr Healy.
“Keeping the UK inside the customs union ensures that EU regulations continue without tariffs, duties or regulatory change. In the event this is unattainable, then the Irish Government must lobby for a period of transition, where the UK remains within the customs union during any protracted exit negotiations beyond 2019.
“Temporary membership to the customs union would allow for the appropriate time to be dedicated to developing a full and comprehensive trade agreement.”
On the issue of potential increased pressure on third-level places, Mr Healy said possible travel restrictions and a reduction in EU research opportunities in the UK could have a positive impact by attracting international students.
Provisions need to be put in place to allow Irish universities, colleges and institutes of technology cope with the potential increase in demand for agri courses, according to Macra.
On the impact Brexit could have on the CAP budget, Mr Healy warned that if young farmers believe they will be washed away with the first crisis they encounter, they won’t risk entering the industry.
He said it is crucial that the EU continues to support young farmers by maintaining the funding currently directed towards them to ensure their ability to develop and expand their businesses.
He said the delegation from Macra requested members of the Oireachtas to sign off on an increase in government contributions to the EU budget to sustain the CAP budget and buffer young farmers and rural youth from the effects of a decision not of their making.